How to Choose a New Sewing Machine
that Suits Your "Personal" Type of Sewing?
My question is to you today,
How would you choose a new sewing machine?
I'm so often asked, particularly within the classroom teaching classes,
“How does someone know if the sewing machine that they choose is the right sewing machine”?
This is actually a very complex question and
there are many questions that you first need to ask yourself.
Are you tired of your old sewing machine?
Does it no longer do the things that you're now wishing to be able to do?
Does it even work or is it a little broken?
Is the machine the right size for your very tiny sewing corner?
Have you just upgraded your sewing area to a much larger space where you can now have a much bigger sewing machine?
Does your sewing machine do the many varied stitches, that you'd love to be doing?
Do you want a sewing machine that'll allow you to do machine embroidery?
Do you want a machine that has a bigger range of what it can do, or do you just want to do a basic straight or zigzag stitch?
Would you like to have a BSR function for stitch regulating when quilting?
Would you like to have a pivot option on your machine, meaning....
when you stop sewing with your needle still in the fabric, then your foot will actually raise by itself to whatever height you choose it to, within the machines range of choice. (This is a brilliant function and I use my all the time).
This list could go on forever, as sewing machines are so very diverse
these days. Gone are the days of the basic treadle, and then the next generation of machines where you had a choice of straight or zigzag stitch..Wow wasn’t that something for that particular generation?
Remember how many "amazing clothes" were actually made on both the
treadle sewing machine and the hand turned machines. The layers, the pleats, the frills, the collars, the preciseness of those beautiful gowns that were worn with such elegance, and then there was the basic mother who made and mended her children’s clothes just to make ends meet. The treadle was certainly a brilliant invention and I’m sure that we're all so very grateful for it, as it has led us onto the amazing machines that we have today. Never could that generation have even envisioned what luxury our sewing machines are today.
I see many different machines within a classroom, and I've noticed that
over the last 25 years or so, machines have really changed, particularly over the last seven or eight years. My old Janome 8000, which was Janomes very first fully computerized sewing and embroidery machine that Janome had brought out, and then the Janome that I had before that, which was my first machine, approx 1980, had a very vast range of stitches on them, and most of them could be mirrored and the sizes changed, etc, etc. That Janome 8000 machine is still going strong with my daughter and her daughter now using it..It was purchased new in 1992, and has had many thousands of hours sewing done on it.
I now notice that strangely, the machines that I see students with, that I'd
expect to have a fantastic choice of stitches don’t seem to have so many. They may have quite a few, but not to the variety and complexity that they used to.
What I like to suggest to those that ask me,
“How do they chose a sewing machine these days”? is this.....
When I purchased my last sewing machine several years ago, I went through this process and it worked for me. You'll need to fine tune and tweak it to yourself, but you'll certainly get the idea.
Firstly and most importantly,
DO NOT be in a hurry when choosing and purchasing your next new machine, allow yourself several months to do the research.
Do not let any sales man/ lady tell you that you
“Need to be quick before they all go at this special price or offer or end of stock sale, etc, etc....
That is total sales pressure, and guess what, there'll be another sale at another time, and you'll have the machine of YOUR choice, not of THEIR sales pitch.
A sewing machine is an investment that you're making regardless whether
it's the top of the range, mid range or the lower range....
You've had to work for many hours to make the money to pay for this machine, so DO NOT be talked into something, as you'll more than likely regret it later, and you're often a forgotten sale once you've walked out their door, regardless of how nice they smile and tell you that you're such a beautiful person....
You're buying a sewing machine, not the salespersons sweetness...
Now please don't get me wrong here, as I would not buy anything from
any one that treated me bad or rude in a shop, but remember it's your money not theirs.
I've had many conversations with students over time that bought their
machine with such love, enthusiasm and excitement, only to feel rather disappointed a few months on. They found that the machine wasn’t quite what they expected and now feel that they're “stuck” with it.
So the next thing to do, is to go into every sewing machine shop that
you pass, and all the quilt shows that you go to, and pick up EVERY sewing machine brochure that they have, regardless on the price of the machines, even the brands that you think you don't like for any reason, pick up their brochure.
Let go of ALL your preconceived ideas.
I did this and I’m sure I had a hundred or more.
You must have an idea also of just what type of sewing you do, and what
you think you may like to do in the future. My Janome 8000 was an embroidery machine, so I could never have imagined myself not having this feature within my future machine, even though most of my children were grown up by then and I was no longer making their clothes.
Do you only do patchwork, do you make clothes, do you quilt your own
quilts using a domestic machine? I quilt all mine myself on my domestic machine even the couple that are just under 3 metres square..these are big quilts.
Do you use many of the extra stitches, and this is an important area,
as so many of our quilts now with all the varied techniques that are being
taught to students daily around the world, use so many different and varied stitches.
You will of course have an idea of just how much you're wanting to spend
on your machine, and although this is a major consideration to your final choice, at first do not allow it to control your thoughts either by saying...
”what’s the point in looking at this catalogue, as I can’t afford those machines” or “I don’t like that brand of machine as I've heard so many bad things about that company”.
Let go of any and ALL your preconceived ideas and you WILL find it so
much easier to make your final decision.
So start going through all these catalogues and find out more about the
sewing machines functions, and just what new functions that some machines have on them these days.
It was during this time that I discovered that my Brother sewing machine,
that was the one that I purchased, had the function for the foot to raise/pivot when you stopped sewing. This did not actually come with the machine, it was an extra add on / upgrade cost. As I do so much trapunto work and appliqué work this then became a major function for me, and although I did lots of sewing before this machine without having this function, it has now allowed me to move to some different height extremes within my trapunto work, that I would not be able to do so easily without it..yes I could definitely do trapunto without it, but not to the thickness extreme that I do.
It also makes my appliqué technique that much easier as well, that doesn't
mean to say that my applique technique can't be created on other machines, it just makes it easier, and isn't life meant to be easy?
Why have hard when you can have easy?
I also discovered that this machine allows me to design and create
my own personal stitches, which I do. This is brilliant and I save them into the machine for future use.
There are many other functions that I liked on this particular machine,
many I did not know even existed until I starting looking at all those catalogues.
At the time of near purchasing, I had narrowed my choice down to just two machines. This machine also totally self threads itself with the push of a button.
This is how you'll learn so much about sewing machines, their functions,
their capabilities, what you can and cannot do with them, the different feet, etc, etc.
You also need to take into consideration if you'll be carting your machine
to classes, retreats and places. I do not take my big machine anywhere as I don’t personally think they are made for carting everywhere. I also have a Bernina
440 QE, which Bernina gave to me several years ago, for which I am very grateful to them for their continual generosity that they have as a company, and this is a very different type of machine.
I think of this machine as a “work horse” for some of the things that I sew.
Another thing that you possibly will not realise unless you have at least
two machines in your house, that some machines will function different to the other. My Bernina is a gem for sewing thick size 12 threads, but my Brother does not like thick threads at all. It does love fine well made threads.
Think about your sewing area in both the room size, storage and the size
of your sewing bench / table.
Will it also allow you to have a sewing machine extension table, if you choose to have one. Some of the extension tables that you can purchase as a separate item are quite often very small, which is perfectly fine if your area is a little confined or if you're needing to pack away your machine at the end of your sewing each day, but if you have the space to have a much bigger sewing machine extension table, then the same one that I personally use is absolutely brilliant. The sizing of this table is an absolute gem when working with quilts.
You'll need to get someone to build it for you, but within the pattern it explains very easily and clearly how to make this table fit your very own machine as they are all so very different in their sizing and shapes.
You can check this Sewing Machine Extension Table here.
Another thing that I really suggest you to do, is that once you start
narrowing your list down a little, but still being open and receptive to your thoughts on this new purchase.....meaning, still do not let the price factor come into your decision at this stage, and I'm sure that you're reading this, thinking to yourself...”But price is my biggest factor”. Well just for the moment it isn’t.
By now you'll have asked many questions at the sewing machine stands
at quilt shows, within shops and people in general... Be aware not to get too caught up in people’s negativity, as people will always tell you the worst stories and they grow, but are very slow to tell you about all the benefits. By all means certainly hear what they tell you, but don’t get caught up in THEIR drama of it...drama grows quicker than the magic pudding.
Drama is not always realistic as to what the actual issue may have been.
Now it's time to start trialing out these machines.
So sit down with the sales people in shops and at shows and have a go at sewing with them, etc. Now over time when I've done this, I've tended to find that although it's nice to sit there and be shown all the nice things and to sew on a piece of their fabric running a few rows of stitching, it's still not very realistic to how you'd personally be sewing at home...
By now you're getting closer to feeling just what type of machine you may like. You'll start to feel happy about some of these machines, as you start to resonate with them.
This is what I did and would still do in the future.
I made an appointment time that suited both the shop and myself, next
I gathered up several types of my sewing samples, like a layered quilt sandwich approx 8 ins square, a sample of trapunto that I personally do so much of, another sample of where I'd be attaching my appliqué and my favoured brand of monofilament thread, etc and a few other small samples of the types of things that I'd normally sew, as well as the same threads that I'd normally sew with and took these into the places that by now I was looking to possibly make my purchase.
This is a more realistic way of trialing out if a particular machine will fit
your personal needs and desires. You'll also be more aware of just what functions, stitches etc that the machine has, as your brain has now moved totally into your personal type of sewing.
Of course you'd ask the shop owner first if they minded you doing this.
Most times they'd be fine, if they weren't, then I would choose another stockist.
Once again unless you're totally 110% happy with the outcome,
still do not allow them to talk you into something that you do not want.
You may have to do this at several shops to go through the brands that you're now trialing out. You'd never buy a car without test driving it first, nor would you purchase a racing car, if you wanted to go four wheel driving.
Of course once you have totally made YOUR decision YOURSELF,
then you can either wait for it to come back on special somewhere or because you've taken your time to purchase this machine and have possibly been in the store several times and the shop assistant is very aware that you really are looking to buy a machine, and that you've genuinely been looking at others,
there is a chance that if you ask the sales person, "what is the best price they can sell you this particular machine for", then they may even give you a really nice discount...as by now you'll really know just how much these machines sell for both on sale and at full price.
There's never any harm in asking...politely of course.
Now the one thing that I have left till the very end here, is about the cost
of the machine to how much you're able to afford.
You've now gained a lot of insight and information about sewing machines.
You may be in the position of “Well I know which machine I would really love, but this is the only machine that I can afford”. You've also researched a lot over the last few months, so you're possibly wanting your machine right here and now once you've made the decision.
What I suggest to many students, is that at the end of the day "everything"
needs to be your decision and you need to feel comfortable with how much money you're spending, and of course many people are within a family situation and have a partner, etc where the decision is influenced by all of these factors.
In no way am I advocating that you put yourself into debt for your sewing machine, how you handle your money is your personal business and
has nothing to do with me.
What I am suggesting is that if you're replacing your machine and have the time, meaning your machine hasn’t suddenly died on you this week and you need to replace it ASAP, then look at your choice of machine.
Let’s say that the machine is $500.00 more than you're planning on
spending but it's the machine that you see to be the most functional for your type of sewing, and you see that you'll still be using this machine in another 10 years, then if you could manage to put away an extra $50.00 per week, then in just 10 weeks time you'd have the machine that you really would prefer.
I realise that you may also have chosen a machine that may be well over
$1,000.00 more than you were planning on, but if you really, really see the benefits long term for this machine, then what if it took you another 6 to 10 months or so to save this extra money.
Are you aware that if you could put aside just $50.00 per week for
52 weeks of the year, then that would be $2,600. If this is what you want to do, then you'll need to have your focus and be strong, not to dip into this money at all, and before you know it, you'll have the machine of your dreams.....
This is totally your choice of course.
Keep an image of your desired machine that you are now saving for right
in front of you at all times, in your sewing room, on your phone, etc, and you may be amazed at just how much quicker you get that new machine.
You'll start shopping with a new awareness and focus, where you'll think do I really need to buy the “extra magazine or whatever the item may be” as you'll see that the money you saved on the superficial purchase then becomes money for your machine.
Sometimes I've had people write to me, advising that they went through the
whole above research, and actually found that the machine that they thought
they needed / wanted, didn’t suit them at all, and they come across a better
suited machine and it was much cheaper than the one that they “thought” they wanted and needed.
After all this reading and information, you may be feeling a little
over loaded, but to me a sewing machine is a major purchase and needs to be treated that way, whether you're spending $200.00, $2,000.00 or $10,000.00.
Just make sure you take the time to research and learn, as that is the key to choosing the machine that may best suit your personal needs.
With all this said..."Happy Sewing Machine" shopping.
I hope this makes your decision so much easier.
Have the most magical week.
Spread your happiness with
Sharing your smile to a stranger.
It just may make their day a little brighter,
and costs you nothing give.